In my last post, though contrary to some theologians, I concluded that the kingdom of God and the church are not synonymous. Why such a conclusion? I specifically pointed to four main reasons in Scripture:
- The kingdom was first, not the church (i.e. Psalm 145:13)
- It is the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of the church (i.e. Matthew 4:23)
- We are to pray for the kingdom to come, not the church to come (i.e. Matthew 6:10)
- We are to seek the kingdom, not the church (i.e. Matthew 6:33)
For those who are still convinced that the kingdom of God and the church are synonymous, there are two passages that are usually pointed out in support of such an argument:
…and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6)
…and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
Revelation 1:6 says that Jesus ‘made us [God’s church] a kingdom,’ and then Revelation 5:10 goes on to say that Christ ‘made them [God’s church] a kingdom’. Such words are, many times, taken as proof that the kingdom and the church are equal entities.
So, what are these two verses teaching?
First off, Revelation 1:6 should be considered within the context of vs5 as well. Vs5 tells us that Jesus is the great ‘ruler of the kings of the earth’. Then, vs6 goes on to tell us, ‘to him [Christ, or the Father] be glory and dominion forever’. Thus, the fuller context makes it clear who is the King. It is Christ! And it is ultimately His kingdom! Yes, no doubt we have submitted to that kingdom rule, but we are not to be equally identified with the kingdom since the kingdom existed long before we did.
Also, in regards to Revelation 5:10, the word kingdom points to the reality of the church reigning with Christ, not being the kingdom itself: ‘they shall reign on the earth’. Regardless of one’s millennial view, this verse does not qualify the kingdom and the church as being synonymous.
Ladd’s words, in regards to both passages, only underline the point:
‘The only references to the people as basileia [kingdom] are Revelation 1:6 and 5:10; but the people are so designated not because they are the subjects of God’s reign but because they will share Christ’s reign. “They shall reign on earth” (Rev 5:10). In these sayings, “kingdom” is synonymous with “kings,” not with the people over whom God rules.’ (A Theology of the New Testament)
It is the church, the people of God, who are to reign with Christ, but they are not the kingdom in and of itself.
Thus, while the church, the ekklesia of Christ, consists of those who have bowed their knee to Him and have received His rule even now, we should not equate the church with the kingdom of God. The kingdom was first. The kingdom takes priority.
‘The Church therefore is not the Kingdom of God; God’s Kingdom creates the Church and works in the world through the Church.’ (The Gospel of the Kingdom)
Click here to read my thoughts on the church being the greatest tool of the kingdom.